Are you in the process of bootstrapping a startup? Or, are you perhaps down the business growth and development road heading towards a mature SME? Are you using CRM software to manage your customers? What is Customer Relationship Management software? Here is: customer relationships — the benefits of using CRM software for startups.
At the outset of the article, it’s essential to note that the world as we know it will never be the same again. Hence, if customer relationships were meaningful before 2020, they are now critical.
“There is only one boss. The customer – and he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” – Sam Walton
By way of answering the “why” asked above, let’s take a brief look at the current global economic, health, and social circumstances.
The world as we know it: Setting the scene
News of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, broke towards the end of 2019 when China alerted the World Health Organization to the fact that it was dealing with a rapidly spreading viral infection on the unknown origin.
China first reported it as a “cluster of cases of pneumonia.” But, soon determined that it was caused by a new coronavirus. And, because of the fact that the world is a global village — the virus has spread around the world and continues to spread like wildfire.
The World Health Organization has stated, in conjunction with experienced medical personal and researchers, based on China’s experience that one of the only ways to prevent the virus’s person-to-person transmission is social isolation or social distancing.
Therefore, more than 50% of the world’s population is under some form of a lockdown or stay at home order.
We likely cannot imagine the far reaches of what COVID is doing to the global economy.
The world has moved into a recession that is predicted to be worse than the 1929 Great Recession. The World Economic Forum expects over 4 million people in the USA to file for unemployment benefits by the time this is over.
All non-essential businesses have been closed in most countries across the globe, and people have either been sent home or furloughed. And, all companies that have been able to pivot the processes and operations online have done so. Even with the reopening — slow in some places — and not slow enough in others — we are in trouble.
It is remarkable at this time in history that so many employees in companies — who have been sent home — are fortunate enough to be able to work remotely and at least keep business operations running.
Kimberly Amadeo noted in her article titled, “How does the 2020 stock market crash compare with others,” that the US 2020 stock market crash began on 9 March 2020, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) lost the most point in living history.
And, then it dropped again on 12 March 2020 and 16 March 2020, leaving it at an all-time low of 20.3% less than its 12 February 2020 high. Here we are in July — up and down.
The reason for these drops in the stock market is that there was, and continues to be, global panic about the rampant spread of the coronavirus and its devastating effects on the world’s population.
To date, there have been 11.5 million active infections — with more than 535,759 deaths. The infection and mortality rate is more deadly than the annual seasonal influenza that kills circa 0.01% of the global population annually.
The emotional stress on the global population is being documented. The journal article published in the Brain, Behavior, and Immunity journal, titled “The emotional impact of COVID-19: From medical staff to common people,” notes the following:
“Infectious disease outbreaks such as COVID-19, as well as other public health events, can cause emotional distress and anxiety.”
The author, Nicola Montemurro, goes on to state that these feelings of distress and anxiety can occur in people who are not high-risk.
She also highlights the fact that “previous research has revealed a profound and wide spectrum of psychological impact that outbreaks can inflict on people.”
And, new “psychiatric symptoms in people without mental illness can occur or aggravate the condition of those with pre-existing mental illness.”
Thus, while the details of how to take care of yourself in these stressful and anxious times are not relevant to this discussion, it is essential to implement self-care measures to ensure that you survive these challenging global conditions.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Looking towards the future
The question that begs is, what does the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR or Industry 4.0) have to do with COVID-19 and surviving the economic, physical, and mental impact of the world we currently live?
This question is valid and deserves a considered answer.
Klaus Schwab, the founder, and chief executive officer of the World Economic Forum coined the phrase “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” in 2016. And, he had the following to say:
“We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another.”
Some of these technologies impacted by 4IR include Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), WIFI and networking, robotics, and autonomous vehicles.
Four years later, these technologies have indeed happened. However, the reason for the impact of this revolution is not technology-driven, but think — all this tech has offered a solution to people in lockdown.
We can communicate with family members and friends, seek medical help via apps like Zoom and Skype, and work remotely because of the high tech that allows us to link to work colleagues and clients across the globe.
Managing customer relationships
The good news is that within every crisis there is an opportunity. Albert Einstein acknowledged this with the following statement:
“In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.”
While acknowledging the stresses of the current global pandemic, it’s equally important to find opportunities in the midst of the crisis.
Let’s take this statement to heart and consider a simple case study that describes how to use CRM software (appvizer dot com, client relationship), to bootstrap and grow your startup into a robust business.
You want a business that has the ability to weather current financial storms and come out on the other side as a healthy, thriving company.
What is CRM software?
In order to utilize the full functionality of a CRM application, let us consider a succinct definition:
Wikipedia.com defines Customer Relationship Management (CRM) as an “approach to managing a company’s interaction with current and potential customers.”
A CRM is an end-to-end customer management methodology that combines the analysis of the company’s customer sales history to forecast trends and improve customer relationships.
Its fundamental aim is to help the company retain customers and drive sales growth. For, as the quotation by Sam Walton highlighted above states, the customer is boss. And, without customers, the business cannot exist.
CRM Management: A case study
Now that we have an understanding of the primary function of customer management and the core role it plays in running a successful business, let’s consider our case study:
Let’s assume for a moment — you own an online content marketing business known as Firecrab Words. Although you are an experienced content writer and have worked as a freelancer for several years now, you’ve decided that now is the right time to register a company.
You are now going to position your brand to take advantage of the increase in the potential for digital marketing opportunities when the global economy reboots itself.
Let’s also suppose you have completed all the business development documentation. You’ve included the necessary financial and business process models. You have cobbled together a website. You know your website is not great — but it is functional. It will do for now.
The only thing left to do, apart from marketing, is to find a system to manage your clients. You have existing clients that you need to move onto the CRM application.
And, you need to analyze historical data to forecast trends and patterns to determine how to improve your customer management model.
Choosing a CRM
There are a number of different CRM software applications available for you to choose from with different features and benefits. Therefore, the first step is to decide what features you need to successfully manage your customers and potential customers to leverage long-term, consistent sales growth.
Also, because it’s highly likely that you will have to pay a monthly or annual subscription fee, it’s doubly important to ensure that you choose the right fit for your startup.
Once you have decided which features you need, the next step is to consult an online CRM review site like Appvizer that states the benefits of each software application, and it provides a comparison between the apps whose benefits are listed.
As an aside, I used Appvizer to choose a CRM application for my eCommerce business that sells handmade items like bed quilts, clothing made from West African fabric, as well as leather bags and wallets.
However — it’s worth looking at a review site to determine which CRM application is the best for your own business requirements. Be sure to ask around a little — don’t go with the first one. Get some recommendations from someone who has used the service.
CRM: The benefits described as statistics
One of the best ways to describe the benefits of an application is to look at the numbers. Thus, let’s consider the following statistics (financesonline dot com – crm stats analysis of trends).
- The CRM market currently has a value of $120 billion (USD).
- Its annual growth is forecast at 12% per year reaching 82% billion in 2025.
- A CRM system that is implemented correctly can yield a Return on Investment (ROI) of circa 45% on every dollar invested.
- 48% of sales teams rely heavily on their CRM software to manage their clients and improve business operations.
- The CRM business model or customer relationship management is considered the most important aspect of a company next to lead generation and engagement.
These are just a few of the numerous CRM-related statistics available for consumption. However, they describe the value of implementing a CRM system to manage your clients and grow your business.
Customer relationship management as it applies to the case study
By way of explaining the essential CRM functionality, let’s consider each function within the case study stated above.
One of the stated aims in the case study described above is to formalize your content marketing business processes, including the onboarding of existing clients. Therefore, contact management is a vital part of a successful CRM system.
What is contact management?
Concisely stated, contact management is essentially the addition or recording of customer contact details into the CRM system. Secondly, this aspect of the CRM tracks the interactions between the customer and the business, including emails sent, phone calls made, and purchases made by the customer.
Apart from keeping track of client-business interactions, this module has the capacity to generate statistical data that allows the business to improve customer relations; thereby, increasing sales figures.
Therefore, when considered in relation to the Firecrab Words case study, you need to enter all of your current client data into the CRM system. If you have historical sales figures and a record of all customer interactions, it is probably a good idea to add them to the new system as well.
Otherwise, you can start tracking customer interactions from the time you have onboarded all your existing clients.
Sales team management
Contact management and sales team management are two sides of the same coin. Both need to be tracked and managed. Without a sales team — you will not have any customers and without customers, you won’t need to hire a sales team.
At this juncture, it is important to note that because Firecrab Words is a startup, you, as the business owner are also the sales team.
What are the sales team and customer opportunity management?
As stated above, the interactions between the sales team and the customers are measured. It also measures the opportunities that the sales team has to convert visitors to your business’s online presence into returning customers.
The process is also known as lead scoring, and it identifies the clients that are most likely to convert.
The importance of maintaining positive customer relationships cannot be underestimated For, without customers, the business will not make money, and therefore, cannot exist.
Consequently, it is essential to ensure that you not only maintain good relationships with your clients, but you constantly work at improving them.
In this manner, your business will grow from a small startup to a robust, stable business, capable of weathering all storms.
Image Credit: emre keshavarz; Pexals